Finally pain-free, Bortles excited to take on '18

Any offseason discussion about the Jacksonville Jaguars competing for a Super Bowl championship comes with a caveat: What about the quarterback?

Blake Bortles is coming off perhaps his best pro season in 2017, completing a career-high 60.2 percent of his passes with 21 TD's and a career-low 13 INTs. Yet, his game-managing style, with high variance in performances, leaves a lot to be desired at football's most important position -- his 87 yards passing, 88 yards rushing performance in a playoff victory against Buffalo is Exhibit A.

Despite the struggles, Bortles has good reason to believe he'll top his 2017 performance. Mainly, he's finally healthy after undergoing offseason surgery. The 26-year-old had been dealing with a wrist injury for much of the past two seasons.

"When you do not have to worry about going to rehab or going to get treatment, you have to make sure you warm it up the right way, you have to take anti-inflammatory [medication] and do all of that stuff. ... It is just a lot of process to be able to go out there and do what you should be able to do without any pain," Bortles said, via Michael DiRocco of ESPN. "To be able to do that now finally is pretty awesome."

Bortles said he had become used to taking anti-inflammatory medications, getting shots, and consistent treatment on his wrist. He took three cortisone injections over the course of last season to help with the issue.

After offseason surgery, the fifth-year pro is looking forward to throwing without the pain.

"It kind of became normal," Bortles said. "It just hurt all the time. That becomes the new normal, and it is not that big of a deal. It is definitely a relief to be able to throw a ball, and there is no pain at all."

The Jags are set up as a run-first operation that will rely on its defense to win games. The Jacksonville coaching staff often simply asks Bortles not to turn the ball over. On the plus side, there were moments last season when everything seemed to click for the maligned quarterback. His early December run, with four games of 300-plus passing yards, displayed Bortles' potential when everything goes right.

To win over the doubters -- especially with question marks at the receiver position -- Bortles must finally exorcise the torturous performances that plague his game.

Within the building, the Jags believe a finally healthy signal-caller could make the difference in a championship-caliber squad.

"Perception and reality are different," tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. "I think he is a hell of a quarterback. I think he makes plays when it counts. I think he wins football games when it counts. ... I know quarterbacks are drafted to win Super Bowls and win playoff games and win big games, and he has done that. He had made that progression. I think the perception is wrong, and I think the perception needs to be changed, because people aren't realizing it is a progression. It takes time. You can't just come in here and be the best quarterback ever. ...

"People have to realize the progression of Blake Bortles from Year 1 to Year 2 to Year 3 and Year 4 and now Year 5 with a different offensive system and see the jump he made."